Pittsburgh Tribune Review: Memorable Moments in 2012

Good theater can be simultaneously ephemeral and eternal. Fail to see a show before it closes, and you’ve missed that production forever. On the other hand, some shows live on in memory long after the costumes have been packed away and the sets consigned to the warehouse or the dumpster.

A list of the year’s best is highly subjective.

Ask any six theatergoers to create a list of the year’s top 10 shows, and you’ll likely get six different lists plus a request for an extra slot or two.

For theater critics, it’s even tougher. We see more shows and a wider selection of genres, companies and styles.

Years ago, someone asked me what kind of theater I liked best.

I think they were expecting a category answer — dramas, comedies, musicals, classics or new works.

My answer was: Plays that surprise me, entertain me or challenge my thinking.

The list below is not ranked in any particular order, because each of them artfully and entertainingly fit all of most of those criteria.

They’re the locally produced shows from this year that linger on in memory long after their departure.

• “Strata,” Bricolage Production Company: It took a community to produce this immersive, audience-interactive urban experience that blurred the boundaries between theater and reality with a journey unlike anything else theatergoers experienced this year.

• The Chekhov Celebration, Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre: Two full plays and two programs of shorter works by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov demonstrated that yes, Chekhov can be funny as well as moving.

• “South Side Stories,” City Theatre Company: Tami Dixon, a skilled and versatile artist wrote and performed this highly entertaining one-woman show that captured the nuances, quirks and authenticity of several dozen South Side residents and the neighborhood they — and she — call home.

• “Ruthless The Musical,” CLO Cabaret: A giddy, spoofy over the top farce that skewers the drive for theatrical fame left no laugh unexploited and kept the pace fast, furious and funny.

• “August: Osage County,” The Rep: Actress Mary Rawson’s raw and potent performance as the family’s manipulative matriarch drove this tense drama of a dysfunctional family, each of whom is unhappy in their own way.

• “Dutchman,” Bricolage Production Company and the August Wilson Center: Director Mark Southers and actors Tami Dixon and Jonathan Berry rekindled the flames of Amiri Baraka’s incendiary, painfully discomforting 50-year-old drama on race relations.

• “Ainadamar,” Quantum Theatre: music director Andres Cladera and director Karla Boos created an ephemeral, operatic world where past and present, fact and fable, memory and reality collide in a story of love, loyalty and patriotism.

• “The Pitmen Painters,” Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre: Proving that a play can be both entertaining and thought-provoking, director Andrew S. Paul and a cast of nine created a lively, disarmingly funny discussion of big ideas about what art is, isn’t and ought to be.

• “Pop!” City Theatre Company: A musical about Andy Warhol as irreverent, raucous and unpredictable as the pop artist himself. Anthony Rapp embodied the complex, emotionally remote Warhol against a colorful montage of projections that evoked an era, an attitude and an iconic artist.

• “Born Yesterday,” Pittsburgh Public Theater: Melissa Miller, Brandon Lambert and Daniel Krell formed the lively love triangle in this Pittsburgh Public Theater production of Garson Kanin’s 66-year-old comedic drama about influence peddling and secret deals in Washington, D.C.

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or acarter@tribweb.com.
Read Original